Posts Tagged ‘Laia Costa’

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When you see a great foreign-language film, you can often sense the Hollywood executive leering over it. It can be both a welcoming and alienating thought upon viewing, and it would be the case for Victoria were it not for its insanely striking aesthetic. Many films use the long-take to wondrous effect, and you can see hundreds of film articles that explore the abilities of Haneke, Thomas Anderson, Scorsese and Iñárritu. Victoria pushes the boundaries completely; a 134 minute take that has surely captured the attention of Hollywood, and should for every film fan.

We follow the eponymous Victoria, a kind-hearted Spaniard living in Berlin. At the start she is letting her hair down, bouncing around to dubstep in an underground club. Moving outside she starts chatting to a group of men, who invite her out for an after-party, which eventually descends into a criminal partnership. If the synopsis sounds as though events unravel quickly and unrealistically, you’d be wrong. You could argue that Victoria is happily submissive to the charms of the guys, but 21st century people live their lives, attracted to the rush of uncertainty. At least that’s how we are supposed to take to the narrative. Based on the interactions you may or may not have had over yours years out, Victoria either seems like a very familiar personality, or is someone you’ve never met or heard of. This is the issue that may prevent Victoria from being a universal cult favourite.

For those supporting the film’s efforts, it is every bit as enthralling as people have said. Perhaps the best thing about the film is not what is technically achieved, but how realistic the characters appear. Laia Costa is a revelation, a beautifully assured actress who takes us on a journey we become so engaged with. As she begins to fall for the chatty Sonne (a wonderful Frederick Lau) we see the most subtle shifts in smiles or discourse, continually changing right up until the end. It is a film of movement and momentum, and seeing Victoria evolve over the two hours is a fascinating piece of entertainment. A lot of the film is improvised in terms of dialogue (Lord knows they couldn’t wing it for some of the technical aspects), and the flow of conversation is as natural as the direction.

Sebastian Schipper directs this film masterfully; to control so much for an extensive period of time is superbly skilful. Most directors will have chance to cut, regroup themselves and the crew, and attempt the shot a couple of times over. Schipper’s effort, in regard to this, along with his DP, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (who deservedly gets first billing once the credits roll), should be highly praised. This film took three attempts to shoot, and to imagine the frustration when something went awry, and to see the final outcome that is unforgettable, makes you appreciate this dedication to the cinematic form.

As the action amps up, the camera snakes through the bustle and many will become disorientated. For those okay with the speed, it’ll be a nail-biting series of sequences. You can often see snippets of detail that would otherwise go unnoticed with other DPs, but Grøvlen is a clearly an expert. He knows how to control that camera as if it were an extension of himself. There is nothing more exhilarating for a film fanatic than seeing this craft remarkably in operation.

Not everyone will find a relatable element in the film, as its a youthful, anarchic thriller. However, it is also a romantic and innocent look at joie de vivre. The narrative’s development from Before Sunrise-esque romance, to a vérité-infused heist thriller is so unique, it’s bound to have its admirers and critics. One thing, above all else, is that the film should not be missed.

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There aren’t many films with the ambition to shoot in one single take (or something close to it). Birdman from last year attempted it, as well as Gaspar Noe’s hallucinatory Enter The Void. If we go further back, we have films like Hitchcock’s Rope, ingeniously framed in just one room, and Angsta cult Austrian thriller seen only through the eyes of a deranged psychopath.

Victoria is the latest addition to this distinctive genre. Set over just one night fateful night in Berlin, young Spanish waitress Victoria (Laia Costa) dances the night away in a smoky, industrial bunker club. We get the first glimpse of her character: she heads to the bar alone and chirpily tries to make conversation with the apathetic barman. Already we see that she has a lust for life and a willingness to trust.

She encounters four drunk young men, ‘proper’ Berliners, foolishly attempting to get into the club. Outside she sees them again, and they offer her a lift in ‘their’ car. Sonne (Frederick Lau) is the cheeky ringleader of the gang, quickly charming Victoria. Alongside him are his raffish mates; Boxer, the skinhead, volatile one, Fub, the goofy, weedy one, and Blinker, the Vincent Gallo lookalike.

Victoria, sensing an opportunity for fun and unpredictability to spark up her somewhat mundane existence, joins them in some minor japes. The local snoozing shopkeeper is relieved of a few German beers, and the group break into a rooftop to while away the night. Back at the coffee shop where she works, Victoria demonstrates her ability on the piano to the dumbstruck Sonne. She is a failed pianist, wanting some freedom and fun after years of study and discipline.

The film takes a ominous turn midway through, but Schipper has established the characters and the atmosphere securely enough for it to feel authentic. There is a current of tense energy running throughout every scene; how much can she trust these guys? What it is that they want? Is there an ulterior motive? The performances are all very good, if a little stereotypical at times. To sustain a level of authenticity over one long take is quite incredible.

The film that it most resembles is the aforementioned Enter The Void. The cinematography, while less floaty and elegant, shines a similarly seedy and effervescent glow on urban nightlife, capturing all the edginess that city life provides. It is a very good Berlin film. Recently we saw a film about the French house scene, Eden, which ultimately felt quite safe and sanitised, but this film doesn’t suffer from the same problem. It is fantastically gripping and almost unbearably tense.

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